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Art school

Linda Armstrong and Stan Woodard at Spruill

How different our childhood education might have been if the transparencies our teachers had placed on their overhead projectors had featured people such as Josephine Baker and John Lewis, Cornel West and Arthur Ashe.

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For those of us left unschooled in the contributions of African-Americans to our nation's history, Stan Woodard's provocative installation I see no one, no one sees me proposes to remedy the situation.

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On the walls of the Spruill Gallery, Woodard has hung transparencies of black Americans from the arts, entertainment, politics and business, including Lena Horne, Anita Hill, Barack Obama and child actor Matthew "Stymie" Beard. Viewers can choose who they want to place on the overhead projector. Accompanying the installation is the artist's two-part volume of "100 Black Americans." The books' entries are gleaned from the reader-compiled online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which suggests the omissions of the past may be corrected by information in the hands of the people.

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Not unlike Woodard's desire to preserve and commemorate the contributions of black Americans, Linda Armstrong offers preservation of a different sort in Field Studies: Failed Encyclopedic Dreams. Her métier is a natural world of plants, animal bones and fungi, which she arranges like objects in a botanist's hope chest.

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Evidence of her natural-world wizardry is "Bedrock," a 9-foot-tall found-object installation that layers an array of materials — wool, feathers, Spanish moss, oyster shells — on a stack of tarry bed frames to suggest the Earth's strata. As with other pieces in the show, there is an implicit environmental message. While most of this material will one day be reintegrated into the Earth, not so for the human-made objects represented by those mattress frames and the deflated Mylar balloons at the top of the bed-frame tower.

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Both Woodard and Armstrong at times can indulge in a little too much gothic enrapturing with their material (another of Woodard's room-size installations incorporates dead insects and weathered metal to atmospheric but overripe effect) and the Southern artist's romance with old, dead stuff.

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But they are an oddly symbiotic pair. And the rooms they have filled with material objects are heady museums of wonder, and warning too.



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